Friday, August 31, 2012

Monsters for my Monsters

My sister is quite the creative seamstress.  

She brought these little monster toys with her when she visited us.  They are her handmade creation for our boys.

Each of them contain several tiny toys and a bunch of clearish beads.  They come with a 'find me' card (in upper left side of the photo) that has pictures of all the goodies inside.

You can spend hours trying to find all the little trinkets.  It really held the attention of our kids and is a quiet, portable, and adorable little game.  

Maybe I'm giving away too much information here, but I think that even my DH likes to play with them. 

If you're having a long weekend like we are here in the states, I hope you're finding interesting ways to entertain yourselves.  

I'll be here feeling for the pearl inside of one of these monsters.  It's almost impossible to find!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For You (for me)

It's that time of year again for me:  Birthday Season!

My sons have their back to back birthdays in the next couple of weeks, so creative preparations are well underway.

I like to get them little treats, but I do have a hard time buying some of the branded toys they love (ie Cars2 movie stuff, angry bird dolls, etc).  I figure,'s my house, and they leave their toys all over it so...may as well have some toys that are nice to look at (read: NOT sponge bob).

In comes the "For You" toys that are in reality "for me".

Note: the vast majority of their gifts are actually for them, but in the confessional booth of my blog here, I am coming clean to you. 

Sometimes I  get them toys that I WANT!

Have you ever done that?  Come on...admit it.  You have, right?  Have you given your husband a new shower head for his birthday, because you know he'd install it for you? 

Please tell me I'm not alone here!  What's your most famous For You (for me) gift?

Ok, so here's the scoop:

1)  Fagus toys, available at Nova Natural Toys.  I didn't get any new ones this year, but it's hard for me not to.  For now I am restraining myself, but the truth is that I like to play with them.  Who knew I would be into toy trucks?!

2)  The tiny wooden village above as seen at B Kids blog is something that also falls easily into the "For You (for me)" category.  I had it shipped from the UK.  Wooden T.O.T.S was very willing to ship to the U.S. so that made it easy and affordable.

3)  After the olympics, who could resist the urge to have their own mini wooden toy play set of London?  Muji Online will help you fulfill your dreams of visiting London and bring it to the palm of your hand.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Modern House Quilt: Block 12 - the big YEAH/BOO!

Does finishing an awesome project make you happy or sad?

For me, it's both:  Yeah!  and Boo !!! at the same moment.

I'm thrilled to final finish my final modern house quilt block, but at the same time I'm so that it's all over.  

Seeking out the houses, choosing them, finding them on the map, creating patterns based on the inspiration's hard to believe the design process is over.  

This house is on a hill in San Francisco, and has a tree growing out of the middle of the house for decoration.  I found that to be a unique design element that helped it make the cut for inclusion in the quilt.

I have some time now to work on the next modern objects block.  I'm already planning colors and fabrics in my mind.

Friday, August 24, 2012


The fine art of removing something gooey from one's nose is at times a popular pastime for the company I keep.  My kids, of course, not my husband.

When I saw this knitting bag that looked silk screened by hand in the craft market we visited at Kyoto University, I could not resist it.

Just as I was going to try to pay for it, the shop keeper smiled at me and stuck his finger in his nose.  It was hilarious, and the cartoon image could not have captured his spirit more.  

Not often that you come across the glorification of digging for nose gold.

There is even a video on how to refine your skills (there's a video for everything out there, right?), my favorite being the 'Pick and Lick' methodology.

Alright, well apologies if I grossed you out.  I suppose there is an element of rude in here somewhere. 

Does this kick my blog out of the 'G' rated category?  I doubt it. 

Getting a little older this week, so trying to embrace my inner child.  Not a birthday ending in a zero...but that is now only around 364 days, 5 hours, and 32 min away.  But, who's counting?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Your Own Personal Forest/Pincushion

Foxtail Creek Studio has captured not only my heart, but my pins and needles too.

I have almost finished the final block in my modern house series, and this mini-forest was by my side for the final lap of applique.

There are some final touches of embroidery still to do, but I'm excited to see the final result of this block and looking forward to starting to put the quilt together.

We are excited to have some family visiting us from out of town this weekend, and planning to maybe ice skate, maybe visit Happy Hollow.  All good fun for kids in San Jose.

Under the umbrella topic of cool things you sometimes bump into:  

  • Peapod Fabric's:   Indigo, historic textiles and an antique village in Japan

  • Invisible bike helmet:  having falling off my bike recently (not hurt, just clumsy) this looked cool - no bad hair!  At ~$600, not sure I'm their target customer, but still a creative invention.

  • Rainbow cakes:  So popular these days, would love one on top of a pin.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Pot to Quilt In

Every good little hand applique nut needs silk thread in billions of colors in order to match her fabrics.  I have been doing applique for a long time, so you can imagine that I have a good sized collection.

I was finding thread spools all over the place:  in various pouches and bags, rolling around my desk, in a couple of decorative bowls.  It was getting hard to find the right color when I needed it.

Coincidentally, I recently picked up a vintage modern pot (for cooking!!) from my new favorite Etsy seller - MonkiVintage

I used it to make noodles a couple of times, but when my collection of applique thread was attempting to take over the house, measures had to be taken.

Is storing your thread in a cooking pot a little strange?  Is attaching a wool felt magnet you made to the side of it in order to act as a mini pincushion even more odd?

Well, I'm "otaku" after all, so I guess that explains it.  

I recently read this funny article on the living spaces of hard core otaku.  I'm not sure I'm this nerdy in fact, but I do really really love to quilt!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Modern House Quilt Block: Heartwood Home

I don't usually show the 'full final' photo of my modern quilts blocks on my blog, but this time I could not restrain myself.
This is the 11th block in a series of 12 blocks that I designed and created for my applique class at A Verb for Keeping Warm.  We meet there on the 3rd Sunday of the month.

The great jazz pianist Dave Brubeck lived in this house in the 50's and it was designed by architect Bev Thorne.  I took inspiration from this home that is in the Oakland hills, and designed a block to honor the amazing way it just hangs over the property, suspended by steel beams supporting it.

The house doesn't look exactly the same as the quilt block, but I tried my best to capture it's spirit as best I could.

In other quilty news, if you're planning to apply for a slot to display your quilt in Pacific International Quilt Festival (PIQF), better do it quick.  I think the end of the application window will be coming up in a couple of weeks.  The quilt show itself is in October.

If my modern house quilt was complete, I would certainly enter it.  I'm on the fence about trying to put my niece's quilt in.  It isn't finished yet! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Party's Over: Back to School

Hard to believe summer is ending here and school is on the menu starting tomorrow.  We found out who is in our class this year.  Lots of old friends are back and a special friend or two got moved to a different class.

Change is never easy, if you're 6 years old, or 30-something like's pretty natural to experience at least a little upsetting of the applecart.

Anyhow, stick to what you know and love to get through times of flux, be they working on your piano homework if you're a kid, or quilting away if you're a quilting seems to help quiet the mind.

Eating a bunch of macaroni and cheese for lunch the day before school starts didn't seem to hurt either.

I got the above Japanese tops at San Francisco shop, General Store.

Their goodies are pretty hard to resist, including:

Teapot by Kaico - simple, functional, perfect for 2 or 3 people by designer Koizumi Makoto.

Wooden spoons - by Jonathan's Wild Cherry Spoons -   Fun to cook with.

Bags by Doug Johnston - if you never needed a knitting bag that looks good, or a bag to tote around a small quilting project, this IS the bag to end all bags.  I'm using mine to hold knitting right not.

If you're missing watching the Olympics like I am, check out this awesome Union Flag.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Low Hanging Fruit

We got new neighbors on one side of our house this year and they have not been as diligent about trimming back their nectarine tree.

Gosh, that puts about 200 nectarines growing on my property, what a bummer.  There's only one word for that:


Cobbler?  Pie?  Jam? Grill them?  Other creative ideas

Meanwhile, I'm quilting away these days.  More hand applique - the final modern house block.

Hope your weekend is as fruitful as mine is.  (Hee hee, I know.. I just couldn't resist the pun, sorry!).

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Olympic knitting, and the continued saga of what not to say to a woman / your mommy

I decided to try and get through a very small new knit project during the summer Olympics this year. 

The games had so many amazing moments.  I think my favorite was when gymnast Aly Raisman got the bronze medal after Bela Karolyi encouraged her coach to protest her erroneously calculated balance beam score.  That was just incredible.  Good thing Bela was watching out for our team!

The cowl I made (if you don't knit, a cowl is bacically a neck warmer!) is from Joelle Hoverson's book "More Last Minute Knitted Gifts" and is called Soft As A Cloud Cowls.  If you knit it out of pure cashmere, as I did, then why yes - it is that soft!

Hoverson's other books are also really super, including one on quilting.

It didn't take too long to make because it is a very small project, but I was glad when it was done.  Working with skinny lace weight yarn makes for slow progress.

My least favorite moment of the Olympics came last night during a conversation with my three year old son who I adore as much as any mother has ever adored her son.

While watching track and field, women getting into the starting blocks for a sprint, he points at one of the runners:

him:  Mommy, I like that one.

me:  Oh yes, I can see why you like her best, she is very pretty.  I wonder if she will win a gold medal.

him:  She's much prettier than you are.

me:  Well, she's certainly at least 10 years younger than I am, and she basically works out all day long, so I can understand why you would think that.  Still, it isn't polite to compare how women look.

Sigh, the acquisition of manners can be a life long process for some. 

To those of you out there who consider yourselves every so slightly less fit than Allyson Felix, you're in good company.

Thank goodness for early bed time! 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Liberty of London quilt fabric: Lifestyle

When I heard that Liberty of London was coming out with a line of fabric specifically for quilters (over at Diary of a Quilter), I got pretty excited.

When I learned that Purl Soho was having an anniversary sale with 20% off everything, I figured it was a good time to pick up a few small pieces on sale.

The fabric is branded as their "Lifestyle" line, and is indeed in quilting weight.  Off the bat it was quite funny to feel their fabrics in anything besides the silky light base that I am used to, but I think it will be fun and interesting to work with.  

The base they used is quilting weight, but we all know there are various levels of quality in quilt fabric.  I found their fabric to be of high quality, with very clear designs.  Each piece had several colors used (more colors is more expensive to produce of course).  

In the deep recesses of my heart I was hoping that it would be really affordable when I first learned they were creating it...somewhere around $10-$12 per yard.  At Purl, it is $18.40/yd, which I'm sure is the going rate.  

Still it's half the cost of their original base, but my dreams of buying yards and yards of it have shifted about a doll quilt?

See their latest line of super fine (old school) fabrics here:  Tana Lawn.  For me, I think the new fabric is cool, but my love affair with the original is far from over.


Friday, August 3, 2012

The Cure for the Common Pincushion

You don't have to go far to see beautiful wool pincushions.

My current favorites out there in the universe include:

My latest creation is a 'pin donut' from some wool felt that I picked up in Yoko Saito's Tokyo shop, Quilt Party.

Want one?  Got 20 minutes to spare?  Here we go:

A drinking class with a 3.75" diameter opening can be used to trace a circle on the wool felt. (cut 2 pieces, front and back) 

After marking the wool felt and cutting it out, I used green sashiko thread to do a running stitch in a small ~1 inch diameter in the center of the two felt pieces.

Then, create another round of running stitches about 3/4" from the outside edge of the felt circles, but while creating this, stuff the little 'moat' you created (between both sets of running stitches) with some wool felt fiber.  I have wool fiber around because I like to spin yarn, but you can get it easily online.   

Put a cute button in the center, dress it up with some glass head pins (mine are 1.75" long), and enjoy!

These would make cute gifts for quilting friends, right?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Reflections on Japan: through the eyes of a quilter

I have said many good things about Japan already, and of course encourage you to visit there.

A few parting thoughts from my trip there before I turn my eye back to the projects at hand (hand quilting the baby quilt!!), and the current creative irons I have in the fire here in the California bay area....

Japanese Candy: web link

Very close to the famous knife shop Aritsugu (in Nishiki Market, Kyoto), there is a candy shop that sells all sorts of amazing hard sugar candies.  They have the most delicate flavor on earth and are a real treat.  I am not sure what the name of the shop is since all their signs were in Japanese only.  

The flavor is ever so slightly cherry and maybe vanilla too.  Anyhow, if you figure out how to get more of these over the mail, I'd love some.  It's probably likely I'll have to go back and find more on my next trip.  Their sticks are so tiny!  It feels almost civilized to eat one in public as an adult.

Yuzawaya in Kichijoji:

I had been to Yuzawaya here about five years ago, and although the train station is the same, the physical location of the store has been changed.
I didn't realize that initially and I was wandering around inside of the shop wondering if I was it a different, smaller version of the store I had been to before.

I would say it is still worth a visit, but it is closer to the U.S. version of JoAnn's fabrics, vs. a shop dedicated to quilting.  

They had some very unique items though, so certainly worth a look around.

I liked the 'made for Japan only' Liberty of London fabrics with Hello Kitty motifs.  They were so adorable and happy, I got a couple of very small cuts of them.

I also liked the 'tie-dye' looking fabrics meant for Hawaiian quilting.  I have always wanted to play around with those, so I got enough to make two or three blocks.

The Red Thread blog has a great post on how to get to their new location.

Tokyo Tree:  I tried to get tickets in advance so that we could check it out, but it was sold out for many months.  This is on my list of places to visit next time.